Glory, by Greg Egan

Egan’s double nomination includes this tale in his usual domain of mathematical sf, of which he is the undisputed master and possibly the only participant. Who else would want to come up with stories centered around cool (as opposed to cold) equations and take the added challenge of making them interesting? In this entry, Egan doesn’t get too bogged down in the math, so you can just appreciate the story anyway. This concerns a pair of aliens who have come from several light years away to integrate with another planet who are the remaining species after a much older race died out thousands of years before. This extinct group, the Niah, spent millions of years of their existence pondering mathematics, and achieved a higher understanding of complex equations than anyone else, but it didn’t do them any good in the end since they all died out and the remaining species, the Noudah, could care less. The aliens know there’s something to be found in the Niah’s archeological remains, and their willingness to come all that way to find out first hand trigger the Noudah’s own renewed interest in the same information, to the point that a power struggle erupts over who controls the Niah’s artifacts. Egan puts together a contrast of cultures in a short amount of space, creating a planet that isn’t the same everywhere. The story’s beginning misdirects by spending the first few pages describing the physics that allows the alien archeologists to travel to this unnamed planet, but after that the details of the science take a back seat to more important aspects of the story. I think Egan does well in fitting his own style to the remit of this anthology and comes up with a very accessible and original story, hampered only by the forgettable title.

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